POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 26, 2010
What must it be like in the back room before the annual press conference when the police chief and the fire chief urge "common sense" for New Year's fireworks?
They gotta be shaking their heads, right? Poor guys.
It's kind of like giving a preschooler a drippy red Popsicle on a sweltering day and telling the kid not to get stains on the ecru carpet. You know you're wasting your breath, but you're compelled to say it anyway.
In parts of Oahu, the illegal aerials have been going off for the past two weeks. Last Saturday night, the windows in houses in Kunia and Waipahu rattled every 20 minutes with war-zone sounding blasts. By the time people scamper out to the driveway to see where the detonations are coming from, the burst of color is already faded from the sky.
Neighbors know that already, so they have kind of given up playing detective. Besides, some homemade pyrotechnics aren't even about the visual spectacle; they're solely for the boom that can be heard for miles.
Setting off illegal fireworks can be almost a perfect crime.
There's no fingerprint or DNA evidence on the spent shell and plenty of time to flee the scene of the crime before the rocket even lifts into the air. The people who get caught are either slow runners or have fed-up neighbors armed with video phones.
This year, the situation has taken on greater urgency because a total ban on novelty fireworks, fountains and even sparklers takes effect Jan. 2. This is the unrestrained gorge before the diet, the big bang before the big ban.
In anticipation of the new law, many Oahu retailers ordered extra shipments of sparklers, fountains and paperless firecrackers. The thought is not only that people will go extra crazy setting these things off this year, but that they'll keep a cache for next year. In the garage. Under the electric bug zapper. In a moldy little storage space that seeps through when it rains.
But that's not even the most dangerous thing people do. The list of prohibitions from the Police Department reminds citizens that it is against the law to throw or ignite a firework from, at or into a vehicle, or at a person, animal, or from above the first floor of any building. You can't set off fireworks within 1,000 feet of a hospital, care home or zoo, or within 500 feet of a hotel. You also can't take apart fireworks, gather up the powder and make your own explosive. But if a person has to be told homemade explosives aren't a good idea, they probably don't have it in them to think, "I guess that means me."